“Will and Grace” is no stranger to politics – its latest season features discussions about immigration, President Trump and a host of other topics – but that doesn’t mean show co-creator Max Mutchnick thinks every show should follow suit.
“It depends on the tone – everything is about tone – and our characters are able to talk about what they want to talk about because of the way they were initially built, so it really depends,” Mutchnick told Variety at Friday’s annual GLSEN Respect Awards held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. “I want to hear the cast of ‘Will & Grace’ talk, I don’t really want to hear Tim Allen talk.” (Allen endorsed Republican candidate John Kasich in the 2016 presidential race and attended Donald Trump’s inauguration.)
Mutchnick and his “Will & Grace” co-creator David Kohan were honored with the Champion Award at Friday’s ceremony, where the pair spoke in support of GLSEN and its work toward creating a safe space in schools for LGBTQ youth.
Kohan began his acceptance speech with a quick nod to the younger members of the audience, many of whom were also being honored at the event for their work on the GLSEN National Student Council: “Your generation is just better than ours. Thank you in advance for saving the world; we’re sorry,” he said to laughs from the audience, before jumping into a few more jokes.
Kohan and Mutchnick also revealed the plot for an upcoming “Will & Grace” episode, which revolves around the titular characters discovering a box of love letters they had written to each other. Although seemingly insignificant, Mutchnick said the discovery forces the pair to acknowledge Will’s side of the story after Grace expresses the pain she felt when he came out to her.
“Grace has to reckon with the homonormative narrative, the story told from the perspective of the queer person,” Mutchnick said. “[Will’s] narrative, his pain, is no less real and no less valid, but it is not the story that we are familiar with because it is not the story that is often told.”
“This story happened to a gay man, but it’s a story that could be told from the perspective of any of the letters in LGBTQ because the moral is the same,” Kohan added. “[When there is] education and understanding in a safe receptive environment, everyone’s story can be heard and respected.”
“Black-ish” star Yara Shahidi received the Gamechanger Award. Education was also a central topic of her acceptance speech during which she called on educators to create a more inclusive education experience.
“Education inherently must expand to teach an exclusive history that combines our shared humanity and narratives in both defeat and triumph, normalizing our stories and normalizing our nuance,” Shahidi said. “We must restructure our schools where every environment inspires curiosity and courageousness rather than hurting the contributions, spirit and brilliance of the LGBTQ+ youth through rampant harassment and discriminatory policies.”
“A fight to help one person belong is a fight that belongs to all of us,” she added.
While accepting the Inspiration Award, Ellen Pompeo said it was difficult to conjure up inspiring words within the current political climate of the United States, so instead she reminded audience members to fight for themselves.
“We will continue to fight, and we will continue to teach because these children need us as much as we need them. We will teach our children to fight hatred with kindness,” Pompeo said. “We will teach them the universal truth that love is the only thing that is truly worth fighting for.”
Closing out the night was a surprise musical performance from the stars of “Pose,” including MJ Roderiguez, Billy Porter and writer Our Lady J, who performed “Home” from Broadway’s “The Wiz.”